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Massachusetts Eyes Open Office Standards

In a potential blow to Microsoft , Massachusetts is considering shifting to open standards office software.

"[This proposal] identified the newly ratified OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications as our standard for office documents," Peter Quinn, the state's CIO, said in a statement. "Additional open and acceptable formats are also identified for other types of documents."

Quinn said the proposal was drafted after consulting with industry representatives and experts. The goal is to make sure state documents and government records are accessible, Quinn said.

The state is soliciting public comment until Sept. 9 before making a final decision.

In a blog entry, Brian Jones, Microsoft's Office program manager, said he agrees with the need for accessibility of public documents. But he noted that the Redmond, Wash., software giant is taking steps to address those concerns.

"The default format for Word, Excel and PowerPoint in Office 12 will be completely open, meaning you aren't tied into Microsoft software to access your files," Jones wrote in his blog.

The first beta for Office 12 will take place in a couple of months, and would provide an easy transition for the state, Jones said.

Massachusetts' government is the latest to consider open standards software to save money or improve accessibility.

The city of Austin, Texas, has adopted Openoffice.org software, and governments in Germany, France, Brazil and China to name of few have stated interest in going the open source route, as well.

In the U.K., Scottish Public Libraries have made Openoffice.org software available for lending to the public.